A circular from an army-run school for special children in northern Kashmir, Baramulla, asking its teachers to ‘avoid the hijab during school hours’ has sparked controversy in the valley, leaders policies drawing parallels with the Karnataka Hijab Ban Line.
The military, however, said the word “hijab” (which covers the head) was mistakenly written in the circular instead of “niqab” (which covers the face, except for the eyes). As the school is for special children, the niqab can be an obstacle to teaching, he said.
“Let me clarify this, it’s not the hijab but the niqab,” defense spokesman Emron Musavi told the Indian Express. “This is a school for children with special disabilities, who have a hearing impairment, etc. They must teach phonics using facial gestures. If a teacher wears the niqab, how would she teach, what would the children see. That’s why this order was made. The circular is reserved for teachers.
The circular, issued by the headmaster of Dagger Parivaar School on Monday, said: ‘Parivaar School is a place to learn and grow emotionally and morally. As school staff, the main objective is to ensure the fullest possible development of each learner. For the same, trust should be built with the students and make them feel welcome, safe and happy.
“Staff are instructed to avoid the hijab during school hours so students can feel comfortable and willing to interact with teachers and staff,” he said.
The circular elicited strong reactions from politicians.
“I condemn this letter issuing diktats on the hijab. J&K may be ruled by the BJP, but it’s certainly not like any other state where they bulldoze the homes of minorities and don’t allow them the freedom to dress as they wish. Our daughters will not give up their right to choose,” PDP President and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted.
National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah said J&K had embraced “the India in which every religion is considered equal”.
“This [circular] is wrong. In this country, everyone has the freedom to follow their religion. The Constitution of our country states that we are a secular country. A secular country means all religions are equal,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of the National Youth Conference.
“Everyone has the absolute freedom to decide what he or she wears. I don’t think any government has the right to interfere in that.
Regarding the controversies over loudspeakers and halal meat, he said that objections are only raised against Muslims. “It’s not just about the hijab. We are told that loudspeakers would not be allowed in mosques. Why not? If loudspeakers are used in other places, why not in mosques. What’s wrong with having the azan five times a day,” Omar said. “You tell us not to eat halal. Why? Our religion says we should only eat halal meat. Why are you stopping us? We don’t force you to eat halal. You eat as you like, we will eat as we like.
“We’re not telling you not to use microphones in temples. Don’t they use microphones in the temples. Don’t they use mics in gurdwaras. They do. But you don’t just like our mic. You don’t like our religion. You don’t like our clothes. You don’t like our way of offering prayers. Rest that you have no objection to. Hate is spreading here,” he said.
He said that J&K adhered to a secular India. “This is not the India that J&K joined. We came to India where all religions are equal,” he said. importance and that others would be removed. If we had been told that, perhaps our decision would have been something else.